News & Politics

Unburied Treasures

Deborah Wince-Smith loves digging through the past—and living with it.

The home of Deborah Wince-Smith brims with history. The head of the Council on Competitiveness, a nonprofit that tries to strengthen America’s position in the global economy, Wince-Smith is also an archaeologist who specializes in the Bronze Age.

Her McLean home feels like a small museum: Artifacts and native art from her travels cover every table surface and wall. There’s a fifth-century bc perfume bottle that was a gift from a friend, a silver crown that she bought in Peru, and a sword that belonged to her husband’s grandfather.

Wince-Smith, who grew up in Ohio, is married to Michael Smith, a former deputy US trade representative. They live with two teenage sons and four cats—one Siamese, three Maine coons.

Wince-Smith has done archaeological digs in Greece, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and relics from Greece may sit beside pieces from Brazil and Thailand. “I love that there are these fusions,” she says. “My husband tells me that there’s no more room, but I always find a place for everything.”

After work, she likes to sift through her bowlful of pot shards from excavation sites, look at artifacts, and page through her books. She recalls the dig or shop where she found each item. She thinks about the civilizations they came from.

One corner of the dining room holds a special place; it is filled with figures, paintings, and symbols of Saint Catherine, who was a fourth-century scholar beheaded for her defense of Christianity. The corner reminds Wince-Smith of her family’s trip to Saint Catherine’s Monastery, a Greek Orthodox monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt. They visited at night and watched the sun rise over the mountains.

“You feel like you can reach up and touch the stars,” says Wince-Smith. “It’s the most magical place in the world.”